‘Colours of Shingle’ – is a social and environmental documentary body of work about Shingle Street, a small coastal hamlet in a minimalist and haunting remote shingle landscape at the mouth of Orford Ness, situated between small manor towns of Orford and Bawdsey.
Shingle Street, together with other places like Orford along the North Sea have a very long history, recently shaped by their role in World War 2 and currently a somewhat elite tourist hideaway. There are also a number of historical and environmental books by local people, and a Facebook page for people who visit regularly – discussing issue like fishing, local developments etc.
In particular I am interested in the social factors that led to this particular area voting strongly for Brexit and the Conservative party, despite the levels of deprivation of much of the population – a project to understand why people think so differently from myself. And the changes that have occurred since Brexit and the COVID pandemic.
As the basis for developing documentary photography and art prints and short books that balance interest for the tourist market with representing what I myself want to say about social, environmental and political processes.
Discovering Shingle Street:
The first visit to Shingle Street was a moody cloud/sun day – 30th January 2020, the day before Brexit. In true flaneur fashion I wandered around taking photographs of things I noticed and thought indicated something significant or interesting about the place. Mostly grey and melancholy signs and seas/shinglescapes, reinforcing my feeling of alienation from ‘English’ surroundings where the majority of the population voted for Brexit, and also for Tory MP Theresa Coffey. As former Environment Minister and now Work and Pensions minister, she opposes gay rights, most environmental and social protection legislation, and welfare and housing benefits.
This series of photographs is the basis for ‘Outsider on the Edge’ a largely textless photobook and slideshow personal project – audience and benefit to the world to be determined at the end with the benefit of hindsight and perspective of deeper investigation and local knowledge.
Despite the feeling of alienation, I found Shingle Street intriguing. After a week of intensive on-line investigation following Google and Facebook chains, and links from ‘The Shell Line’, I decided there wer more than enough interesting angles on this one location for the whole project – including other photographers, artists and writers as well as active Facebook page and website for the local magazine ‘Village Voices’. And that I would learn much more from following up on the different angles and potential audiences and purposes than covering too many locations in a more superficial way.
I revisited Shingle Street a week later on February 5th, a sunnier day determined to have a break from Brexit issues. And to follow up on some names, addresses and locally available books about the area. This time we spent more time in the local pub in Hollesley, and Oxley Marshes as well as Shingle Street itself in order to get a better rounded picture of the area. People were extremely open and friendly, including many who were very knowledgeable about the area as well as photographers and birdwatchers from other places. The campsite proved very reasonably priced with a very helpful owner, to enable multiple visits and staying overnight. Thus confirming my decision to focus only on this one location and visit at regular intervals to develop local ‘audience engagement’ with people who could fill in gaps and provide feedback and potential market links with visiting tourists.
Part 4 asks me to undertake a self-directed project that aims to make the world a better place, focusing as much on process – particularly audience involvement – as outcomes.
I wanted to further develop my approach to landscape documentary photography, printmaking and book design about the diverse but interlinked communities and environments along the Suffolk coast between Southwold and Felixstowe. Focusing particularly on the social and environmental challenges faced by this part of the coast. This includes the social challenges and contradictions surrounding Brexit and impacts of COVID-19, compounding pre-existing issues of rural poverty, inequality and neglect. Current proposed development of the area around nuclear power at Sizewell and the current Freeport proposals for Felixstowe and Harwich also mean that the whole area will change significantly in the coming years.
My work on Shingle Street is therefore envisaged as part of a substantial and ongoing comparative body of work in multiple media, including Orford, Aldeburgh and Dunwich and possibly other locations not yet visited, looking at the multiple interactions between these locations and their distinctive ‘Southfolk’ identity. They are linked by history from prehistoric times and trade with Europe, particularly the Netherlands. The swallowing up of Dunwich by the sea and Orford silting led to the rise of Aldeburgh. The locations are all linked by the Suffolk Coast path and tourist development, the decline of fishing and the work of artists presenting at art and music festivals in Southwold, Aldeburgh and Snape. I intend to include work on fishing and tourism as a comparison to work I had done on Cornwall in Assignment 3. I started by reading books on the Suffolk coast including Sebald’s Rings of Saturn and sections on Suffolk in Daniel Defoe’s A tour thro’ the whole island of Great Britain (1724–1727) work by Robert MacFarlane and Stanley Donway on Orford and some You Tube surfing on different locations. I chose to start at Shingle Street because that was an area of the coast I had not been before, and the most remote.
Painting, charcoal/pastel, printmaking, Photoshop compositing, Stop Motion, video, Premiere. sketchbooks. Photobook. Online gallery.
Outsider on the Edge, Photobook
‘Outsider on the Edge’ is a largely textless photobook documentary photobook of my first impressions of Shingle Street 30th January 2020, the day before Brexit.
It was a moody cloud/sun day coloured by heightened gloomy emotions surrounding the whole Brexit process that made me feel I no longer wished to be British, certainly have nothing to do with England. In true flaneur fashion I wandered around taking photographs of things I noticed and thought indicated something significant or interesting about the place. Mostly grey and melancholy signs, Union Jacks and seas/shinglescapes, reinforcing my feeling of alienation from ‘English’ surroundings where the majority of the population voted for Brexit, and also for Tory MP Theresa Coffey. As former Environment Minister and now Work and Pensions minister, she opposes gay rights, most environmental and social protection legislation, and welfare and housing benefits.
The original Photobook was then revisited in April 2021 to add more generally relevant text from a further visit after the COVID pandemic.
Inside Edges: Research and Sketchbook
Despite the feeling of alienation, I found Shingle Street intriguing. After a week of intensive on-line investigation following Google and Facebook chains, and links from ‘The Shell Line’, I decided there wer more than enough interesting angles on this one location for the whole project – including other photographers, artists and writers as well as active Facebook page and website for the local magazine ‘Village Voices’. And that I would learn much more from following up on the different angles and potential audiences and purposes than covering too many locations in a more superficial way. See:
A collage sketchbook of photos, conversations with local people, available information on-line or in local publications, annotated with my own questions and thoughts.
Photographs and Prints
Photographs of the landscapes in and around Shingle Street digitally processed in different photographic styles for a tourist and/or fine art market in response to audience feedback.
Focusing on colour, I continue to explore the range of effects of digital processing in Lightroom, Photoshop and DxO FX filters on interpretations of images. I include consideration of individual images, collage and photomontage and approaches to text.
- how do different media affect how people interprete messages
- how do different media affect how we see and interprete things
- How does mood affect what we see and how we use media
- How do our expectations about audience perceptions affect what we communicate and how
Making the World a Better Place
The project continues my interest in different subjective and objective ‘outsider’ approaches to documentary, focusing on environmental challenges, social challenges of marginalisation and rural poverty. and the changing and conflicting identities and interests that have underpinned debates around Brexit and future visions for our countryside and environment. But – further my response to First Things Next – I am aiming for different types of outputs that fulfil different purposes: direct messaging, for different audiences linked to a broad ethical commitment. Provoking questioning from the viewer rather than imposing one single message.
I look at how my creative process, particularly documentary work, can be significantly improved through working with other people to help me to develop alternative narrative threads and visual approaches, building on some of my professional qualitative research skills.
My body of work will include different ways of engaging with audiences to improve my work in terms of:
- refining the ‘messages’ by getting a range of local views and information on social and environmental issues through conversations and interviews and engagement with relevant local social networking sites.
- feedback on the effectiveness of the ‘communication aesthetics’ from local, national and also international overseas audiences to improve my technical and visual communication skills through ZemniImages Facebook page crosspasted to other social networks.
- finding different marketing, promotion and advocacy outlets for the different dimensions of the body of work. Including campaigning organisations like National Trust, RSPB and Rural England.